Getting started saving money is hard. It’s easy to get used to instant gratification and impulse purchases. Postponing material fulfillment takes discipline and deferred enjoyment. I don’t like deferring my enjoyment, but I do it. The path to successful savings isn’t always easy, but it is gratifying, when you give it the time and effort required to see actual results.
Here’s the 10 step plan to successful savings:
- Recognize the need. If you don’t understand why you need to save, you won’t do it for long. If you think it’s more important to buy a new car, a new TV, or the fanciest portable gadget out there, you won’t prioritize saving. You need to think about how saving a solid nest egg will benefit you and your future self, before you can be sure you will stick to your savings plan.
- Pay yourself first. When you get paid, whether it’s a traditional paycheck or a surprise windfall, immediately drop 10-15% in a savings account you keep completely off-limits, no exceptions. If you make this an unbreakable habit, you will have a surprising amount of money in a surprisingly short amount of time.
- Prioritize. Prioritize your expenses. If you don’t care about a particular optional expense, get rid of it! Examine the rest of the bill for things you can trim. Do you really need 5000 channels? Can you make do with just 300 specialized versions of ESPN?
- Compare prices. If you buy from the lower-priced store, you save money. No s****, huh? Doing this requires that you forgo impulse purchases and do some research before you buy most things. Shop online, at least enough to know what you should be paying.
- Save your change. When you get home at night, put your change in a jar. When the jar gets full, bring it to the bank. A medium-sized mason jar full of silver-colored coins will bring in about $100. Put that directly into savings.
- Save your dollars. I pay cash for everything I buy in person. When my money clip gets too many one-dollar bills, I put them all into a box. This would be a phenomenal addition to my savings account, if I weren’t planning to use it for spending money on our vacation next month.
- Save the extra $$. If you get unexpected money, don’t let it enter you regular cash flow. Get it straight into a savings account. You weren’t expecting it, so you won’t miss it.
- Save the new $$. Save your raise. If you start making more money, save the difference. Like #7, you’ll never miss it. Don’t give yourself a chance to expand your lifestyle.
- Club the naysayers in the knees. There will always be people who denigrate your choices. If they tell you it’s crazy to live within your means, or get upset because you don’t want to go to the fancy restaurant, screw ’em. Not literally of course. We’re trying to apply a punishment here, after all. If they don’t like your choice, kick them in the shins.
- Reward yourself. Don’t be afraid to schedule rewards at certain savings goalposts. When you get $5000 saved, let yourself take $300 to the high-end steakhouse. When you get $10000, look at buying the camera you want. Give yourself a reason to stay motivated. It is, after all, your money.
This is how we’ve managed to build up a small-but-comfortable emergency fund and tackle a nice chunk of our debt. Do you have plan to save?